Boycotts have been a powerful tool for social change in America. In a more frivolous capacity, they also keep our entertainment dollars where we want them to be, supporting dope writing, diverse casts, and fun movies. Now while I have no evidence that this latest iteration of the X-Men film franchise is in any way, shape, or form, a vehicle for discussing systemic racism, sexism, or any other form of bigotry, we can definitely speak on that latter part. Chances are it will be at the least mildly entertaining and likely continue the upward trend of X-Men movies from the abomination that was X-Men: The Last Stand. Yet and still, I call for a boycott because the X-Men movie franchise, and more specifically 20th Century Fox, is keeping us from the plotlines and epic crossover movies we’ve been dying to see on the big screen. And because 20th Century Fox never loved us.
You might be thinking to yourself, “CB, go home you’re drunk. The X-Men franchise helped usher in a renaissance of comic book media that’s far bigger than you realize. Besides, I’ve already bought my ticket for the midnight show.” Follow me and you’ll see why this is important.
It all began in the 1990s. The comic book industry as a whole was in steep decline. While DC had the success of the Batman and Superman franchises in film and TV, Marvel was still reliant on comic book sales to keep its doors open. In an effort to stave off closure, Marvel execs began selling the film rights to different characters and franchises, starting in 1993 with the sale of the X-Men rights to 20th Century Fox. The sale of the franchises was less the calculated sale of packaged characters, and more like the dispersal of the Dragon Balls. In retrospect, I hope the film execs that bought these rights were fired. What the fuck was Lionsgate Entertainment going to do with the film rights to Black Widow in the late 1990s/early 2000s?
Anyway, in the early 2000s the film rights to many of their properties began to revert back to Marvel’s control with nary a film being made. The first film rights to return were Black Panther’s in 2005, and if we’re being honest, we probably dodged a bullet here. Also returning later that year were the film rights to Iron Man, and in 2006 the rights to Thor and Black Widow came back home to Marvel. The only film rights that reverted back to Marvel after a film had actually be release were those of The Hulk, basically because Ang Lee’s Hulk movie was roasted so badly that Universal never started production on a sequel. With those key pieces in place, Marvel began laying the foundation for the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) with phase 1 being the releases of Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk in 2008. In 2009, Disney acquired Marvel Studios for $4 billion and, thanks to Mickey Mouse’s seemingly bottomless pockets, began the process of reacquiring character rights starting with Blade, which was owned by New Line Cinema. Other properties, such as Daredevil, Elektra, Punisher, and Ghost Rider, naturally reverted back to Marvel after a run of abominable cinematic releases that we’ve tried our hardest to forget.
Since then, we’ve received new MCU properties every year, from additional phase 1 and phase 2 movies centered around The Avengers; to the ABC hit Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and the critically acclaimed Netflix series Daredevil, righting all the wrongs of the Sony Daredevil and Elektra films a decade prior. Marvel was even able to partner with Sony, who found success with the Sam Raimi renditions of Spider-Man but had struggled with the franchise since, and brought Spider-Man into the MCU starting with the phase 3 release of Captain America: Civil War and continuing with the aptly named Spider-Man: Homecoming set to release in 2017. Marvel Studios has brought us into a new golden age of comic books, even creating books that tie into the MCU.
Despite its successes, there’s been one glaring omission in the otherwise tight MCU: any mention of the X-Men or mutants. That’s a result of the aforementioned sale of The X-Men’s rights to Fox. In that deal, Fox acquired the rights to characters from the X-Men and Fantastic Four franchises, which include some of Marvel’s iconic heroes and villains. Since 2000, Fox has released eight Marvel properties with the ninth, X-Men: Apocalypse, releasing in theaters May 27th.
While the Fox releases have generally been well received at the box office, the criticisms from fans and moviegoers have grown over the years. The newest complaint is how Fox has handled women and characters of color: treating them as mere window dressing for their white male counterparts. Fox owns the rights to pivotal female characters such as Jean Grey, Storm, and Mystique, who are often seen and not heard, deferring to characters such as Cyclops, Professor X, Wolverine and Magneto. X-Men: Days of Future Past is a great example of Fox’s lip service when it comes to representation — while Mystique is a central character to the plot, the amount of time Jennifer Lawrence is on-screen and not skulking around or fighting in a bodysuit is minimal. Storm and Bishop are glorified extras that [SPOILER ALERT] get killed off. While Marvel Studios isn’t beyond reproach, Black Widow, War Machine, Black Panther, Scarlet Witch, and Falcon play integral roles in the movies thus far. Additionally, women and people of color are playing major roles in the MCU television and streaming world, with Luke Cage and Cloak & Dagger being added to an already strong lineup.
Fox, simply put, is not to be trusted with a franchise that was inspired, in part, by the Civil Rights and women’s movements of the late 60s. Fox is that dude that was charming at the start of the relationship,: there was so much promise. Now he’s comfortable. He’s moved in but doesn’t put in on the rent; he plays XBox all day; drives the gas out of your Honda Accord with the AKA plate on the front; and is always asking to borrow some money. It’s clear that he now sees you as a meal ticket, sex toy, and way to fix his abominable credit score. You deserve better, and like it was written by Tyler Perry himself, Marvel Studios has been that “nice guy” waiting in the wings the whole time.
It is with this in mind – walking in the footsteps of Martin, Rosa, Bayard, and Claudette – I call on you, my nerd brothers and sisters, to join me in skipping X-Men: Apocalypse and every Fox X-Men release until Fox comes off them character rights. #BoycottXMen, y’all. We can do this! Kriss from MovieTrailerReviews.net and The Insanity Check podcast made a great point on Twitter: Disney and Marvel Studios have gotten much better with respect to representation in their properties because the fans have demanded it of them. It’s time we hold Fox’s feet to the fire. We can continue to blindly hope each year that maybe Fox does right by its characters and their fans, or we can take some action by not taking action in theaters. I’m more than content to wait for Age of Apocalypse to hit On Demand. Are you with me?